Who Writes The Headlines?

Talk about your buried ledes. Last week, the Governor and her staff met with the head of Boeing Commercial Airlines to present the “business case” (the comparable data on costs, quality of life, workforce, etc.) for why it makes the most financial and business sense that the second line of the 787 should be assembled here in Washington, and ideally in Everett. To be honest, the business case is probably second in importance for Boeing – behind the relationship with the Machinists’ Union and the stability of the labor situation – but it’s a good thing to make sure that management has all the facts.

Which is why it’s really surprising to me that the headline in the Seattle Times is “Boeing won’t get new incentives to add 787 line here.” Yes, it’s true that incentives aren’t discussed in the business case, but even the article acknowledges that “Boeing has repeatedly made clear this year that a key issue in the competition is its concern about the company’s poor relationship with the Machinists union and the number of strikes in recent years…”

Here are a few reasons why the “No Incentives” headline is surprising:
1) The company hasn’t asked for any
2) The company hasn’t indicated that incentives are a major part of its decision-making (in some ways, just the opposite)
3) Incentives only shift the business case, and – even without incentives – it makes more financial sense to build the second line here.
4) Every time anyone mentions more incentives for aerospace in this state, everyone goes into an uproar that’s a mix of “let those greedy corporations leave” and “stop trying to blackmail us” (incentives are actually good policy sometimes, but that’s not a popularly held belief)

Anyway, I’m not a journalist and I don’t know how decisions are made on what “the story” is for a given article. But my headline would have been “Governor’s Business Case shows that Washington is the Best Location for Boeing.” And that’s fit to print.

UPDATE: Puget Sound Business Journal went with “Governor to Boeing: here’s why 2nd 787 line should stay.” Close enough.

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